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Shafer has seen promise in Orange so far in ACC

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SYRACUSE — Six games down, six to go in the regular season for the Syracuse Orange, and first-year coach Scott Shafer likes much of what he’s seen.

“I think the team is in a good place,” Shafer said. “They haven’t worried about (what’s) down the road, they just worry about focusing in on one game, one play at a time.”

Syracuse (3-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) defeated North Carolina State 24-10 last Saturday for its first ACC win. It came on the road a week after the Orange were beaten 49-14 at home by No. 3 Clemson.

Although the passing game has struggled — quarterback Terrel Hunt was just 10 of 20 for 74 yards passing with two interceptions against the Wolfpack — the Orange’s run game has become prolific.

A week after rushing for 323 yards against Clemson, Syracuse had 362 against N.C. State, averaging 9.1 yards per rush. The load was split between just Hunt (92) and tailbacks Jerome Smith (140) and Prince-Tyson Gulley (132).

Syracuse on Saturday will face Georgia Tech (3-3, 2-2).

“We’re a fast and physical team,” Smith said. “We’ve got enough players where whatever we do we’ll make it work.”

Still, the passing game is lacking, averaging barely 200 yards a game. After a nice start to his budding career — seven touchdowns on the first seven drives he quarterbacked this season — Hunt has faltered the past two games with five interceptions. Drew Allen, who started the first three games, has seven picks and only two of the Orange’s nine scoring passes.

“We want to be a plus at the end of the season,” offensive coordinator George McDonald said. “Right now, we’re not close. The biggest thing on offense is you want to protect the football. It all starts with the football, and that’s where we really are preaching more than anything.”

To Hunt’s credit, he’s the third-leading rusher on the team with 240 yards on 36 attempts, averaging 6.7 yards per carry and scoring three times in the five games he’s played.

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